Nocturnal after John Dowland

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Nocturnal After John Dowland, Op. 70 is a classical guitar piece composed in 1963 by English composer Benjamin Britten for guitarist Julian Bream.[1] It is considered one of the most influential works written in the twentieth century for the classical guitar.[2]

Julian Bream premiered the piece on 12 June 1964.[3]


The piece is in eight movements as follows:

1. Musingly
2. Very Agitated
3. Restless
4. Uneasy
5. March-like
6. Dreaming
7. Gently Rocking
8. Passacaglia
9. Slow and Quiet

The piece is based on Come, Heavy Sleep from John Dowland's "First Book of Songs"(1597). Each movement is a variation progressively closer to the Dowland song which concludes the final movement.[4]


  1. ^ "Nocturnal after John Dowland : for Guitar, op. 70". Retrieved 2013-04-11. 
  2. ^ "Nocturnal, op. 70". Guitarnotes. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  3. ^ Graham Wade A Concise History of the Classic Guitar 2010 p155 "On 12 June, 1964, in the quiet seaside town of Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England, Julian Bream premiered Benjamin Britten's Nocturnal after John Dowland, Op.70. The impact of this piece on the accepted guitar repertory was to be revolutionary, .."
  4. ^ "Come, heavy Sleep: motive a metaphor in Britten's Nocturnal, opus 70" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-04-11.